You might know your SEO from your SEM, but do you know how your website ranks against competitors? Although the only metrics that really matter are your own company’s brand equity and sales, it’s a helpful integrated marketing activity to suss out the competition online and know how you stack up. Fortunately, with the abundance of free and low-cost tools available, you can benchmark your website against the competition and create a plan for improvement.
Work with the Numbers
First, fire up your favorite search engine and type in a relevant service or product. Where does your site appear in comparison to the competition? This ranking measures nonpaid, also called organic, relevancy and is one of the most-important indicators of the performance of your website. Sites that rank higher receive more online traffic and feature more relevant content for users.
Second, does your site carry authority? To find out, you’ll need to measure the off-site optimization of it. This refers to the factors that have an effect on your site, such as backlinks. These are links on other websites pointing back to your website. Backlinkwatch and Open Site Explorer are two free online tools that give you visibility into the backlink ranking of your site or competitive sites.
Third, look holistically at all of your online marketing efforts. One popular way is to run your website through Marketing Grader to get a report card of how your website and online marketing is performing. Then, run a competitive URL through the online checklist to determine its strengths and weaknesses. media junction also offers a free online competitor analysis that rates your website against three competitor properties.
“Once you run the analysis, put together an action list of what areas you can improve and what you can do differently than your competitors,” advises Jessica Meher, a marketing manager at HubSpot and founder of clickify, an inbound marketing and web design agency.
By staying ahead of your competition and comparing important site performance metrics against key competitors, you can find out which strategies are working and refine future integrated marketing activities.
Since 2005, social technologies have swept through popular culture. Today, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide have an account on a social networking site, and nearly one in five online hours is spent on social networks.
Businesses, however, are still missing the boat, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study that analyzes how social technologies stimulate business growth and generate added value. Researchers say that by not embracing and implementing social technologies to their fullest, businesses aren’t tapping even a tiny fraction of the $1+ trillion of annual value that’s there for the taking.
Social Technologies Defined
McKinsey defines social technologies as “products and services that enable social interactions in the digital realm, and thus allow people (consumers and enterprises) to connect and interact virtually.”
Among many others, the study’s list of technologies includes:
An abridged summary of the 13-page study’s business upside for integrating social technologies includes:
Already integrating social technologies or tactics? Our prior social media posts may provide some actionable new ideas.
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Wary integrated marketers should look carefully before leaping into SMS (short message service) marketing. It may feel like the Wild West of the new mobile frontier, but there are still rules that must be followed. If you go off half-cocked without knowing the boundaries before you hit “send,” you could end up shooting yourself in the pocketbook. Learn from these expensive mistakes others have made so you won’t have to repeat them:
1) Spamming Your Customers
Don’t abuse the medium. Simply having someone’s cell phone number does not mean you have permission to text them. They need to opt in. Then once you have permission, you need to maintain it. Don’t forget to give people the option to opt out within your message, every time.
2) Forgetting Disclaimers.
Your message should always include the standard caveat that “message and data rates may apply.” Remember, some people don’t have unlimited texting or data. If you send a link that takes them to a video, they could easily exceed their limit. Don’t upset your customer! Be diligent about following the rules and respecting the recipients of your messages.
3) Meager Incentives to Opt-in.
Give your customer a reason to want to text in and give you their phone number. It could be a free report or valuable information for a B2B audience. For a B2C consumer audience, the incentive will usually be some type of discount or offer.
Be aware that the same offer in an email may not work on cell phones. People guard their cell phone numbers more than emails. You need to make it worthwhile for customers to give out their cell phone number.
4) Mobile-unfriendly Destinations.
Your audience is going to view your message on their mobile phone, so send them a link to a webpage that has been optimized for mobile devices. Be sure your message works on a small screen by testing it first.
5) Using the Wrong Text Message Provider.
Businesses looking for a texting company need to know whether the provider is using a good system. To do so, it helps to understand the difference between SMTP and SMS. According to mobile marketing expert Jean-Michel Bernstein of Emarcom, “Some providers use SMTP, or email protocol. Although it costs less, your message could get blocked as spam. SMTP is like a non-toll road, there’s lots of traffic and messages are not guaranteed to go through—SMTP has a 60% failure rate! If a provider offers unlimited texting for a flat rate, this is a red flag! It means they’re basically sending emails to cell phones.”
When a carrier sees a large block of messages (e.g. 100+) going out via SMTP, they may block all the messages. However, your test message will go through because it’s only a single message.
Be sure your SMS campaign goes out on the cell phone carrier’s data network. By using the data network, you guarantee the message will be delivered within 60 seconds. Using the data network costs 3-5 cents apiece.
6) Buying Lists of Phone Numbers.
This is our last big no-no. Never buy a database of cell phone numbers from a list provider and then use it to send out text messages. Cold call if you must, but don’t spam people. If you violate an anti-spam law, the penalty could result in a fine of as much as $175 per cell phone number, per incident.
You’re just going to have to build up your list of cell phone numbers the old fashioned way. Expect to spend 30 to 60 days developing a sufficient cell phone number database. Give people a good enough incentive for giving you their number and your list should have no trouble growing.
You may have a lot of “owned media” and not even know it. Does your company have empty walls or hallways? Perhaps they could be put to better use than as generic art galleries. Think of at all those blank office walls as “owned media”—yet another avenue for getting your integrated marketing message across and an opportunity to cross-promote services while reinforcing your brand values.
Who Uses Owned Media
Hospitals offer a prime example of “owned media”. Their campuses have miles of blank walls and waiting rooms filled with captive audiences, but few use them effectively. One notable exception is Kaiser Permanente, which has been using the vast wall space of its new Irvine, California, facility to motivate patients with images from their “Thrive” marketing campaign that also reinforce the brand’s commitment to the their members’ total health as well as the communities they serve.
But you don’t have to be as big as a hospital to have “owned media.” Take a walk around your own business. Do you have waiting areas? Are you using your signage and store displays effectively?
Match the Message with the Environment
Take advantage of potential areas within your company to talk about new products or improvements. Be careful to balance environmental design with marketing—don’t come across as too pushy or salesy. Owned media within the office also offers a vehicle for engaging and inspiring employees, informing visitors and reinforcing your brand values.
Potential Owned Media Opportunities
According to M. Muneer, CEO of CustomerLab, empty walls are not the only places for branding and messaging opportunities. Owned media potentially includes the building, walls, garden, vehicles, websites, and social media.
Muneer cites additional opportunities that include external signage, vehicle wraps, garden boards, interior design, digital signage, floor and wall graphics, information kiosks, and so on. Owned corporate messages can be put in the entry hall, waiting areas, cafeteria, staircases, elevators, and parking area. Even your phone system can be used for branded audio messages instead of traditional ring tones. In short, anything a company uses to communicate or to make an impression can be considered owned media.
Integrated marketers should be sensitive to their environment and carefully choose the right way to deliver the right message for the setting to convey your brand values without getting pushy.
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Facebook introduced Graph Search, a new way to explore Facebook. Given Facebook’s reach and content — 1 billion users, 240 billion photos and 1 trillion connections — there’s a lot to search. Graph Search is a way for Facebook users to find photos, places, recommendations, people, interests and events that are relevant to their lives.
With Facebook Graph Search, you can use Facebook to find information qualified just for you. Think of it as the ultimate search, combining location-based review sites, such as Instagram, with photo sharing services, such as Flickr, and engines, such as Google. There is no limit to how you can combine keywords to return relevant data.
Graph Search is too new to indicate its impact on businesses, but its scope means you have to consider Graph Search as part of your integrated marketing strategy. Given that Graph Search combines personal recommendations culled from Facebook users with traditional search-engine marketing, your business will benefit from earning as many likes, check ins, ratings and recommendations as possible to push it higher in results.
Here are three ways to get ahead of the Graph Search curve by focusing on the relevancy of your Facebook Page:
Check Page Information. Start with the basics and make sure you classified your business properly and have posted up-to-date information, such as physical address, telephone number and hours of operation. You’ll want this information to appear accurately when your business appears in Graph Search results.
Promote Your Business to Target Audiences. Consider ways to cross-promote your Facebook marketing with other integrated marketing initiatives. If you run a retail shop, post signs and encourage your customers to check in. Earmark some dollars from your online advertising budget to buy Facebook ads that target customer demographics, such as people who share hobbies similar to your products or services.
Give Your Audience Reasons to Connect. Your Facebook community will grow if you give your audience content that encourages engagement. This means setting an integrated marketing strategy that includes consistent Facebook posts, with valuable content that encourages sharing. Although you can post sales messages from time to time, rely on other creative messages, such as contests or polls.
Because web design and the technologies that underpin it are moving so rapidly, they’ve received a lot of media coverage, including our post about the benefits of Responsive Web Design (RWD). As a result of all the ink, many integrated marketers have made improving their web sites Job One for this year.
If a rebuild or refresh is on your radar, don’t get too far without first brushing up on emerging trends in these vital areas:
Create once, publish everywhere. That’s how smart companies are getting the most mileage out of their integrated marketing content.
If you’re like most small to mid-size businesses, you might consider the curation of customer case studies and testimonials, surveys, product data, presentations, company statistics and more as one of your most-important integrated marketing tactics — and one of your time-consuming tasks. So it makes sense to market that content as widely as possible.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t promote their content beyond their own websites effectively — yet it’s the single biggest opportunity you have. That’s where an integrated content marketing strategy comes into play, so you can ensure you’re influencing customers with the right content at the right time.
Here are three sure-fire ways to connect company or product content with buyers:
A Picture Is Still Worth a Thousand Words. Our ancient ancestors might be responsible for the infographics craze. After all, they told stories by painting images on caves more than 30,000 years ago. Today, we have it a lot easier. According to Visual.ly, an infographic — shorthand for information graphic — is data sorted, arranged and presented visually. Pinterest is another popular platform to publish your infographic.
Turn Commerce into Child’s Play. We turn to our smart phones, tablets and apps for everything from answering emails to finding the best Chinese restaurant in town. So why not turn your integrated market content into an interactive game or app? This trend of gamification is expected to increase by 90 percent reports Mind Commerce.
Be Your Own News Channel. With the ease and low cost of press release distribution services today, you can create your own news room to announce company information, putting your brand on every major news site and search engine on the web. According to PRWeb, you can boost readership by adding a multimedia element, such as a photo or video.
Signs, or signage, are so commonplace that their importance can be taken for granted. The International Sign Association (ISA) published a study indicating that when a sign was added on a previously blank side of a building, sales increased anywhere between 2.5% and 7.1%.
Most small business owners know they need signage, but too many think of them as merely a marker identifying the business –certainly not a powerful marketing tool. The fact is, when designed effectively, a sign can be a part of a solid integrated marketing strategy that helps brand your business in the minds of your customers.
According to the International Sign Association (ISA), your sign should
Attract New Customers
Research indicates that 85% of your customers live or work within a five-mile radius of your business. But according to the U. S. Census Bureau, 18.6% of the population relocates annually, which means every year you’re losing customers that you must replace with new customers just to break even. The quickest, easiest and most economical way to attract new customers is with signage.
Brand the Business
When your business is the first one that comes to mind as a place to find a product or service, you have achieved what is called “top-of-mind awareness.” Top-of-mind awareness is built and reinforced through repetition. When driving to and from work, school and shopping, your customers pass your location some 50 to 60 times a month. Your sign should be designed so that it commands their attention every time they pass by.
Create Impulse Sales
A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley analyzed 30,000 purchases of 4,200 customers in 14 cities. It found that 68% of purchases during major shopping trips were unplanned–they were bought on impulse. Even though many of today’s consumers have the financial ability to spend money, few have the time in which to do that spending. They’re certainly too busy to search for you or wander around comparison-shopping. They are more likely to stop at the first convenient place they see that seems to be selling what they need.
If your sign is going to convince the impulse customer to stop at your business, it must be designed so that the important information is easily recognized at a glance. Make sure the first time someone reads your sign, they immediately understand the most important information–what you’re selling!
Is direct mail a part of your integrated marketing strategy? If so, do you maintain your own mailing lists and mail your direct mail pieces yourself thinking you’re saving your company big money?
Well, think again.
According to the USPS, over 40 million Americans change their addresses annually, which makes maintaining a high-quality mailing list a near impossibility. In fact, the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) reports that Undeliverable-as-Addressed (UAA) mail costs the United States Postal Service approximately $2 billion each year.
Too many small businesses shy away from data management practices, usually because they don’t think they’re big enough and/or they don’t know how to get started. The truth is, small companies can benefit greatly from keeping their customer data clean. Implementing some simple controls¾like checking addresses against the National Change of Address database (NCOA) and making sure there are no errors in content or address formatting¾can ensure ongoing data quality.
If these activities sound daunting to you, consider outsourcing this task to a mailing services provider to maintain your lists. Oftentimes, mailing services can actually save you more money than if you tried to do it all yourself. Not only can a mailing provider ensure the data you are working with is as clean as possible, they can save you money by improving deliverability and maximizing postal discounts to help you mail at the lowest possible rates with the fewest possible UAA mail pieces. This not only saves you money, it protects the environment by reducing paper waste.
So the next time you’re getting ready for a big mailing, give outsourcing a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Is keyword research a strategic function or a tactical one? The late Ron Jones, president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing and author of Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond believed that it is not only strategic, but also foundational to all marketing channels you will use.
According to Jones, the first thing to consider in developing a keyword strategy is what you want to accomplish when you reach your target audience. Do you just want to generate an impression for branding purposes or do you want to invite them to your place where you get them to make a purchase?
Here are three types of strategies to consider:
Identifying this up front will help you put your keyword research in the right perspective. As you refine and pick your top keywords, you can sort them accordingly based on which strategy you’re targeting.
Because summer vacations aren’t complete without a trip to the beach, the idea of owning real estate along the coastline is a very compelling consideration. And why not? A beach home is real estate gold; it can serve as both a getaway for anybody inclined to get some sand beneath their toes and an investment property to obtain secondary income. While owning your own personal Margaritaville may seem like an expensive proposition, there are still bargains to be had at the beach — believe it or not.
RealtyTrac, a comprehensive housing data company, has released a special report ranking the top 10 best bargain beach towns for summer, analyzing more than 1,400 cities in coastal counties. The list, which only used cities bordering the ocean and with a population of 50,000 or fewer, was filtered down based on a bargain beach index composed of median home prices including prices relative to the home price bubble, average summer temperatures, air quality and density of registered criminal offenders, and . Cities were then given an index score from 0 to 500 with 500 being the best possible score.
“Buying a second home or investment property in a beach town can help families save on summer vacations for years to come and also potentially generate vacation rental income,” said RealtyTrac Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist.
“While real estate close to the ocean tends to be pricier, bargains are still available particularly in smaller towns off the beaten path where home prices have been slower to bounce back from the housing downturn. We picked the highest-ranked bargain beach town from each state to provide a good sampling of the diverse beach town experiences available across the country,” said Blomquist.
Best Bargain Beach Towns: Summer
The latest rankings doesn’t represent the name-brand beach towns most people think of, but rather their affordable counterparts. (A good option when buying a home in summer.) According to RealtyTrac, these are the 10 best beach towns to buy real estate in:
10. Bethany Beach, DE
Located in the incorporated town in Sussex county, Delaware, Bethany Beach is one of the more underrated beach towns on this list. Although typically only home to a population of 1,060, Bethany Beach during the summer months is a hotbed for visitors — receiving approximately 15,000 vacationers per year.
9. Florence, OR
Named after a sailing vessel that wrecked along the Oregon Coast in 1875, the town of Florence is a coastal city in Oregon situated between Coos Bay and Newport.
8. Madison, CT
This beach community was incorporated in 1826 and named after President James Madison. Madison was once an epicenter for fishing, shipping, shipbuilding, farming, and crayon manufacturing.
7. Dauphin Island, AL
Known as the sunset capital of Alabama, Dauphin Island is located in Mobile County on a barrier island at the Gulf Of Mexico. The town has become a major vacation spot, offering an authentic taste of the Gulf Coast.
6. Emerald Isle, NC
Emerald Isle is a secluded and tranquil slice of heaven located in Carteret County, North Carolina. Located on the Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle is also part of the Crystal Coast, making it a great place to live, work and play.
5. Palm Beach, FL
Palm Beach needs no introduction. This incorporated town in Florida is lined with palm trees and legendary resorts, mansions and historic landmarks.
4. Riverside, RI
3. Crisfield, MD
Situated in the southernmost town in Maryland, Crisfield is a beach-lover’s real estate dream. With a good part built on oyster shells, Crisfield boasts one of the largest marinas on the East Coast, and hosts various events including the annual National Hard Crab Derby.
2. Mastic Beach, NY
For those searching for low-cost beachfront property, Mastic Beach in New York is your answer. With a median home price below $100,000, this coastal town located in the southeast part of the Brookhaven in Suffolk County is a bargain.
1. Keansburg, NJ
Complemented by an astounding skyline view of New York City, Keansburg is a bayside community situated in Monmouth County, New Jersey. In terms of home prices and style of living, Keansburg is the best bargain beach town in America.
Buying your first home is an unforgettable experience as a first-time homebuyer, and one you’ll always cherish. But the problem facing many first-time buyers today is home affordability. It’s become a major concern for first-time homebuyers entering the real estate market, especially for millennials, as rising median home prices combined with lower inventory levels across the nation are making home affordability a thing of the past. According to the National Association of Realtors, one of the major hindrance for many first-time homebuyers is student debt.
“It’s becoming very evident from this survey and our research released last month that the financial and emotional impact of repaying student debt is contributing to a delay in purchasing a home for many would-be buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
“At a time of quickly rising rents, mortgage rates at all-time lows and increasing housing wealth, a lot of young adults in their prime buying years are struggling to enter the market and are ultimately missing out on the stability and wealth accumulation that owning a home can provide.”
Another factor hurting first-time homebuyers is credit score — which are lowest among young adults ages 18-29 year olds. A TransUnion survey revealed that nearly a third of millennials — ages 18 to 34 — would like to purchase a home within the year, but can’t because of low credit scores.
Despite the hurdles, first-time homebuyers are still making up a large portion of sales. The month of May saw first-time homebuyers making up 33 percent of existing-home sales. In the first six months of 2016, first-time homebuyers have represented on average 31 percent of existing-home sales, while a mere 11 percent of sales were investors, the lowest since 2009.
With that said, personal-finance website WalletHub has ranked the top 300 U.S. cities in terms of their attractiveness for first-time homebuyers.
Best U.S. Cities For First-Time Homebuyers
To determine the attractiveness for first-time homebuyers, WalletHub based their rankings on three key dimensions: 1.) Affordability, 2.) Real-Estate Market, and 3.) Quality of Life. The three dimensions were then evaluated using 19 relevant metrics — each metric graded on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the most favorable conditions for first-time home buyers. Metric included Foreclosure rates for the real estate market ranking; housing affordability and cost of living for the affordability ranking; and weather and crime rate for the quality of life ranking. In addition, WalletHub used data from U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, Zillow, the FBI, the Insurance Information Institute for their rankings.
The following real estate trends list provides the top 10 cities ideal for first-time homebuyers along with their overall scores and rankings in affordability, real estate market, and quality of life:
10. Lexington, Kentucky
Total Score: 62.84
Affordability Rank: 45
Real-Estate Market Rank: 57
Quality of Life Rank: 36
9. Centennial, Colorado
Total Score: 62.98
Affordability Rank: 122
Real-Estate Market Rank: 33
Quality of Life Rank: 7
8. Lincoln, Nebraska
Total Score: 63.55
Affordability Rank: 70
Real-Estate Market Rank: 43
Quality of Life Rank: 21
7. Boise, Idaho
Total Score: 63.73
Affordability Rank: 3
Real-Estate Market Rank: 87
Quality of Life Rank: 91
6. Longmont, Colorado
Total Score: 64.11
Affordability Rank: 145
Real-Estate Market Rank: 16
Quality of Life Rank: 2
5. Westminster, Colorado
Total Score: 64.31
Affordability Rank: 127
Real-Estate Market Rank: 14
Quality of Life Rank: 8
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Total Score: 64.44
Affordability Rank: 17
Real-Estate Market Rank: 82
Quality of Life Rank: 47
3. Thornton, Colorado
Total Score: 65.42
Affordability Rank: 125
Real-Estate Market Rank: 22
Quality of Life Rank: 3
2. Greeley, Colorado
Total Score: 65.46
Affordability Rank: 112
Real-Estate Market Rank: 9
Quality of Life Rank: 5
1. Overland Park, Kansas
Total Score: 68.49
Affordability Rank: 58
Real-Estate Market Rank: 29
Quality of Life Rank: 11
The upward trend of our economic status has fueled drastic changes within the housing sector. Inventory shortages have resulted in escalating home values and bidding wars between investors and house hunters. Of particular interest, however, are the changes seen in subsequent rental rates. Several cities throughout the United States have experienced increased rental rates, some of which have doubled in price.
While increased rental rates have burdened tenants, investors of all types have become eager to acquire buy and hold properties. Recent activity has facilitated the development of new projects and made everything from apartment buildings to existing single-family homes a hot commodity. Increased rental rates have even caused some homeowners to move out and rent their property for additional cash yields.
According to MPF Research, San Francisco has experienced the largest surge in rental rates. As such, the Northern California city was placed atop a list with the 50 metropolitan areas that experienced the highest rent growth during the second quarter of this year. San Francisco rents increased by 7.8 percent, according to preliminary estimates by MPF Research market-research firm based in Carrollton, Texas. The following is a comprehensive list of the cities that experienced the highest increase in rental rates:
Increased rental rates have therefore made buying rental properties the latest investment trend. Opportunities for passive income have never presented themselves with such promise. Further supporting the idea of acquiring a rental property are statistics released by Trulia that acknowledged owning a home may be 44 percent cheaper than renting one.
With incentives for owning more promising than ever, now is the time to buy. However, keep an eye on local rental markets while attempting to do so. It is likely not worth the hassle, or price, to have to move from one rental property to another before buying. Increased rental rates may therefore drive many towards ownership. Investors, in particular, are searching for optimal rental properties to take advantage of the increasing rates.
The prospect of an all-cash transaction is one in which homeowners welcome with open arms. It may serve as the difference between an acceptable offer and rejection. All-cash offers may even facilitate the sale of a property that was not originally on the market. For these reasons, and several more, the acquisition of hard money transcends the lengthy process that typically accompanies a traditional sale.
Investors with the capability to provide immediate capital are therefore at an advantage over the typical homebuyer. By comparison, the saturation of our market with all-cash offers has made it increasingly difficult for those without the necessary means to compete. Potential homeowners, unable to make an all-cash offer, are being squeezed out.
According to the National Association of Realtor’s (NAR’s) Confidence Report, all-cash offers account for 33 percent of home sales. International purchases account for the greatest amount of all-cash offers in the United States. Furthermore, 87 percent of the Realtors involved in the report acknowledge that they are witnessing a continuous trend of increasing home prices. Homebuyers, particularly those in the market for the first time, are already battling low inventory and rising home prices. The added pressure of all-cash offers is therefore an unwelcome one.
According to William Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird Research & Insights, cash transactions have been supported by investor pools acquiring real estate, not by individuals looking to live in the home. “These are investment pools paying cash for houses to hopefully get returns,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a trend among individual homeowners because most people going to buy houses don’t have that kind of cash sitting around.”
According to Patrick Newport, an economist with HIS Global Insights, sellers prefer all-cash offers to those of the traditional approach. Having the money up front removes the complications typically associated with selling a home. “If you own a home and are selling yourself, it’s probably easier if someone pays you cash — it cuts out the messiness and having the homebuyer get approved for a loan.”
Continuation of this recent trend will likely reinforce the momentum the housing sector is currently exhibiting. However, it will have a resounding impact on first-time homeowners. Karen Dynan, vice president and co-director of economic studies at the Brookings Institute, says “it just makes the housing market less affordable. It’s good for the overall economy, but not for every person in the economy.”
Concurring with Dynan, Delwiche acknowledges that all-cash offers may prevent more people from entering the market. “Home prices go up and it affects housing affordability,” Delwiche says. “You can’t have first-time homeowners who are seeds for long-term growth, because they are then crowded out of the market. So short term it’s something of a positive, but is a headwind for first-time homeowners.”
While first-time homeowners are at a significant disadvantage, it is hard to argue with the prospect of all-cash offers. Those using cash have a greater negotiating power than those requiring a loan. Sellers, recognizing the increased ease of sale, are most likely going to chose the suitor providing cash and are often willing to reduce the house’s price on their behalf.
Transactions consisting of nothing but cash carry a much lower cost. Mortgage rates alone can serve to double or triple the cost of a property. Furthermore, closing costs are significantly lowered when purchases are made with cash. Aside from saving money, all-cash offers save buyers valuable time. There is no need to locate the best lender and significantly fewer documents to sign. So, while it may be difficult, first-time homebuyers are advised to take part in this trend. The following tips may make the prospect of an all-cash purchase a little easier:
The home inspection portion of the homebuying process is a crucial step toward determining whether you want to own that house. While you can’t “test-live” a home beyond buying it the same way you test drive a car, you can use this opportunity to get a feel for the place and determine if it suits your needs. Plus, perhaps most importantly, a home inspection is when you can identify any potential problems with the structure that might impact how much you’re willing to pay, or even if you decide to move on to a different location.
Partner with the right inspector
Like every other portion of the homebuying process, you should conduct research and vet the best possible choice for a home inspector. Ask for sample reports from previous clients. Make sure these are extensive and provide detailed recommendations and pictures. If you get single-page reports with vague language and no clear directions, move along to the next inspector.
In addition, locate a home inspector who has been certified. Fortune Builders noted that most reputable inspectors will be a member of one of the following:
You should attend the home inspection to familiarize yourself with your potential new property.
Even though you’re not the person who will be conducting the inspection, you will definitely want to attend it. Two sets of eyes are always better than one, and you might be able to spot something the inspector might have overlooked. Plus, this provides you the opportunity to ask any questions of the inspector on what you might need to fix. The inspection also gives you the chance to become more familiar with your potential new home as you’ll be exploring every nook and cranny in the place.
Although home inspection guidelines vary from one state to the next, the ASHI provides a “Standards of Practice” that outlines the minimum foundation of what to inspect. It’s the inspector’s job to accurately and adequately describe the basic current physical condition of the home. The point is to identify any repairs, replacement or remodeling that might be necessary.
What to keep an eye on
As you’ll be also be there, you should know what the inspector will examine. He or she will be scrutinizing both the interior and exterior components of the home, including the condition of:
Since the inspector is only examining the physical aspects of the home’s structures, there are certain things that he or she will not look into, including:
Working with a qualified home inspector can save you time and money in the long run, but it will also ensure you close the homebuying process with a thorough understanding of what you’re about to purchase.
When it comes time for you to decide on how long you want your mortgage to last, you have several options to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. Since no two people or families are exactly alike, each homebuyer will have his or her own specific financial capabilities and goals.
To accommodate these differences, you can obtain different terms for your mortgage depending on how long you want to pay it back. With 30-, 20- and 15-year terms available, you can choose the option that best suits your short- and long-term financial priorities.
Let's take a look at what these different options mean for you:
While three decades might seem like a long time to pay off a mortgage, the 30-year term is actually standard for a majority of homebuyers. According to Freddie Mac, 2016 saw approximately 90 percent of homebuyers opt for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Its popularity stems from the length of the mortgage, which allows for lower monthly payments for the homeowner.
"The 30-year note allows for lower monthly payments for the homeowner."
Having to make smaller monthly payments makes a lot of financial sense for new homeowners who might not have the ability to make larger payments. However, it should be noted that 30-year terms often come with a higher interest rate than shorter mortgages.
Keep in mind that you can still make additional payments on the loan principal, which shortens the term length. This can help you speed up the repayment process and save money on interest.
After the 30-year, a 15-year note is also fairly common mortgage term. While not nearly as popular as the former, Freddie Mac noted that about 6 percent of homebuyers decided to go this route.
Since you'll pay off this loan in half the time as the 30-year one, it means you'll end up with a larger payment each month. Although you'll have a higher payment, the shortened term reduces the amount of interest that accumulates on the loan.
This is a great option if you want to finish your mortgage quickly and save money since you won't have to pay as much interest.
However, if your financial situation drastically changes, it could make it difficult to make these higher payments, so be sure you have a strong sense of your ability to pay off this mortgage.
In addition to the 15- and the 30-year terms, you can also implement a 20-year mortgage. This option typically has a repayment and interest rate that falls in between the other two options.
Homebuyers who have just started a new family or are planning on doing so shortly, a 20-year option makes for a great choice as you will have paid it off by the time the kids are ready to go to college.
The bottom line
With any major life decision that carries a long-term financial impact, it's crucial that you evaluate the different mortgage options and decide which one most closely aligns with your current and future situation. Talk with your First Centennial Mortgage loan officer to find out which term option works best for you and your financial situation.
You’re in the process of buying a home and you feel like everything is going well: you found the right house to buy, you’ve made an offer and began submitting your documentation for your mortgage – it seems like move-in day is not far away.
“An appraisal puts you one step closer to closing on a new home.”
However, there are some steps that must occur between this stage and receiving the deed and keys to your new home. One of the most important – and misunderstood – is the appraisal.
The basics of a home appraisal are simple. Once you have been fully vetted as a buyer, your home must also be assessed and determined to meet certain standards. Real estate appraisers assess the market value of a property, and if the appraised value is roughly in line with expectations, you will receive a final loan value and begin to proceed with the loan process.
The appraisal process
It’s helpful to understand how appraisers do what they do. Unlike home inspectors, who are typically checking for safety and maintenance-related items, appraisers are almost entirely concerned with market value. To determine the market value of an existing property, for example, an appraiser will usually take a look at how other similar properties have been valued in that location. Or, if a home is new and unique to the local market, he or she could determine its value based solely on construction costs. Either way, appraisers must compile a detailed report that backs up their final determination with public records, calculations and anything else used to arrive at that number. Copies of this report are made available to the buyer.
You’re in the home stretch.
The open house tour is a critical component of most real estate deals. For prospective buyers, it can be confusing to know what to do at an open house, what questions to ask or what to look for as they take a brief peek at what could become their next home.